CHEVY NSCS AT CHARLOTTE ALL-STAR RACE: Jimmie Johnson Press Conf. Transcript

NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES
SPRINT ALL-STAR RACE
CHARLOTTE MOTOR SPEEDWAY
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT
MAY 17, 2013

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S PATRIOTIC CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Charlotte Motor Speedway and discussed last year’s All-Star Race win, his thoughts on the format for this year’s All-Star race and other topics.  Full Transcript:

THIS IS THE 10TH ANNIVERSARY OF YOUR FIRST SPRINT ALL-STAR WIN AND IF YOU WERE TO GET A FOURTH ALL-STAR WIN YOU WOULD HAVE SOLE POSITION OF THE ALL-TIME WIN RECORD.  TALK ABOUT HEADING INTO THIS WEEKEND TRYING TO GRAB THAT FOURTH ON SATURDAY:


American Muscle

“I’m pumped.  I’m happy to be home. Happy to have the support from Sprint they have done such an amazing job of supporting our racing series.  To have this weekend and all that goes on with our All-Star event it’s just really cool.  I’m thankful for what they do for myself and all of us in this room and all of us in the sport.  It’s going to be a cool night.  They put an extra million bucks up.  We will see if somebody can ring that bell.  The format has changed.  We will see how that plays out.  Clearly you want to start as close as you can to the front in that final segment and have a shot at winning.  We will all be trying real hard through each and every segment to get that done.  If I am the lucky one to win and fortunate one to win, I will be very happy to beat two guys that I have idolized by whole career, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt, Sr. on wins in this particular event.  We will see what happens.”

HOW DOES THE WAY THEY HAVE CHANGED THE RULES CHANGE HOW YOU APPROACH THE RACE? DO YOU THINK IT’S REALISTIC THAT ONE GUY CAN LEAD ALL FIVE SEGMENTS?

“Yeah, I think there is a good chance.  It’s not going to be easy.  Last year’s format whoever won that first segment had a free pass for the rest of the night.  If they didn’t turn it into a test session they would have been foolish to not handle things the way we did.  We played the game right and it paid off.  We left with a million dollar check and a cool trophy.  That is our job as teams and drivers is to figure out how to beat the system.  I remember one year, Jeff Burton was going to take the checkered on pit road after he finished a pit stop.  It’s fun to have those opportunities to think like that and to find an advantage that others don’t.  Some maybe upset with the way we won last year, I take great pride in it.  We worked the system and did a good job.  That’s not going to work this year you’ve got to run hard.  I think there is a chance. I think that it’s a long shot.  With the competition that exists in the All-Star Race it’s going to be a long shot, but it’s worth it and it will bring some excitement.  If somebody does ring that bell it will be a hell of a party.”

DO YOU REALLY CARE ABOUT THE FORMAT FOR THE ALL-STAR RACE OR THINK ABOUT OR HAVE EMOTION ABOUT THE FORMAT? TALKING ABOUT THE GUYS JUMPING OVER PIT ROAD AND HOW YOU MAY STOP DIFFERENTLY I WOULD LIKE TO ASK ABOUT THAT AS WELL:
“The format I think every team looks at it and says ‘alright the million bucks is after that final segment. I need to start as close as I can to the front.  How do I do that?’ Depending on the year there are different formats from inversions. When there is an inversion and it’s a fan vote you know they are going to want to see a big inversion so there is always a group of guys fighting for fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth on the race track. They do away with the inversion or it’s a random and then you’ve got to take a guess at it.  But you are assuming the winner of that final segment or whatever it is, is going to get the pole position.  The last year was far different and we played that game perfectly.  This year’s game is go fast.  You have to go fast to have a shot to win this thing.  Ideally starting on that front row is key.  So, that is going to be the game we play and everybody is going to work real hard to maintain track position and try to win segments.

“Pit road and no qualifying speed, I remember watching it and it was exciting just watching it.  Now I’m going to be a part of it and man I hope we get a chance to really practice it.  Getting off of the banking at that speed and I assume accelerating again to get down pit road and how slick pit road is, it’s going to be exciting (laughs).  I remember watching on television and (Jeff) Gordon came off and slide right to the edge of the grass and was on the throttle. Then tried to slow it down and all of his crew guys, I think (Chad) Knaus might have been on the team too.  Standing there on the pit wall waiting for the car to come to a stop and it just blew right on by, four or five stalls past.  I would assume we will see a little bit of that tonight with guys getting real aggressive and trying to get to their pit box.”

IS 15 MINUTES ENOUGH TO PRACTICE GETTING ON AND OFF OF PIT ROAD, LIFT POINTS, BRAKE POINTS, ALL THAT SORT OF THING OR WOULD YOU LIKE A LITTLE BIT MORE TIME TO WORK ON THAT?
“I would like some more time.  The biggest reason is 20 cars trying to go through that is going to be chaotic.  Trying to find a clear opening, if it was 30 minutes you could kind of wait until things calmed down and then get out there and try again.  The amount of time is fine, it’s just the space that we have to work in is confined with a lot of vehicles.  Maybe if they let three or four guys go at a time over 15 minutes you could all get two or three clean attempts and learn a lot more from that than I think a free for all like what we are going to have.  The spotters will earn their keep today in that 15 minute practice session trying to find clean holes so we can get it done.”

IS MONEY THE ONLY MOTIVATION THIS WEEKEND? OR IS WINNING PROVING PEOPLE WRONG WHO SAID YOU WON THE FIRST SEGMENT WRONG? OR IS THERE MORE YOU HOPE TO ACCOMPLISH IN TERMS OF GETTING ANOTHER CHAMPIONSHIP THIS YEAR?

“I think there’s an order. First and foremost, there’s that big check. That’s top of the list. And then from there, you work down. And it still is a race against the toughest guys in the field, so a second-place finish isn’t a bad thing. It can help for morale right on down through probably Top-5. You can justify it as a good night and you learn something. There are other people that might not consider themselves (as) a favorite and have a shot to win, so they’re going to experiment and use this weekend as a test session. Even some of the big teams; I know we always try a thing or two here to see if it will work and if we want to bring it back for the 600. And then, the last piece is just laps on a track that we race at with the right tire and with all the competitors here. It just makes the teams better and stronger. So, there are a lot of layers to it, but it’s just kind of in order; and teams do that, you know? If you win, awesome. If not it’s like well, okay. We learned this, and right on down the line.”

I KNOW THAT YOU ARE NOT CURRENTLY INVOLVED IN A FEUD OR DISPUTE. BUT IF YOU WERE, WOULD THIS BE THE PERFECT PLACE FOR PAYBACK BECAUSE THERE ARE NO POINTS ON THE LINE AND YOU’RE NOT GOING TO TOTALLY TRASH SOMEBODY’S SEASON IF YOU CHOOSE TO GET EVEN?

“It really depends. If somebody harmed you or did you wrong in a points-paying situation, you want to pay him back in a fair manner, which would be during a points-paying event. So, it depends. Everybody has their own motivation and a way that they like to handle things. Nobody is going to give each other a lot of slack here. And if you do get caught-up in a racing accident, you’re more willing to be caught-up and okay with being caught-up in a racing accident here because the points aren’t on the line. So it kind of buys you some slack in a few areas; maybe not as much. You can’t send a message as strong as you want to in others. But at the end of the day, when we get ticked in the car when something happens, you don’t think about those things. So, if that switch had flipped on whomever it is, it could still happen. There really isn’t a clear-cup path or code to it all. But the smart guys, they wouldn’t do it here. They’re going to wait until points are on the line and it has the same impact on that guys as it did to them.”

WHEN YOU LOOK AT THE SITUATION BETWEEN KASEY KAHNE AND KYLE BUSCH THE LAST FEW WEEKS, YOU WENT THROUGH A STRETCH WITH KURT BUSCH WHERE IT SEEMED LIKE YOU GUYS WERE RUNNING INTO EACH OTHER EVERY WEEK. DOES THAT GET IN YOUR HEAD WHEN YOU SEE HIM ON THE TRACK AFTER REPEATED RUN-INS WITH THE SAME GUY?

CAN TWO GUY’S DRIVING STYLES CONFLICT TO THE POINT THAT THEY STRUGGLE TO RACE ONE ANOTHER?

“After talking to both of them, they’re both frustrated. Kasey has come out on the losing end of it three times and is more frustrated than Kyle. But it’s not like Kyle has an issue with him. There has just been stuff. And we’ve all been through it. I’ve had it with Kurt. I’ve had it with Sterling Marlin in like ’03 or ’04. And it’s really no fun when it happens and you kind of have a magnet for whatever car it is and it goes on and on. The way I’ve been able to break the cycle is you just consciously have to get away. After one wreck and it wasn’t on purpose, you’re like okay. No big deal. Second one happens and you’re like oh man, really honestly, I really didn’t mean to do it. And then if it goes to a third time, you’re like okay. If I see you coming, I’m getting the hell out of the way (laughs). You go by and I’ll go over here. And you just have to try to make it stop that way.”

IN TERMS OF AGGRESSION, DO YOU NOTICE ANYTHING DIFFERENT ABOUT HOW DRIVERS RACE THIS RACE?

“Yeah, you’re not going to point a guy by if he’s faster, especially with the average finish of each segment counting towards the final starting order, there will be no pointing guys by and working with one another. It will be door-to-door and you’re going to have to do a slide job or something to clear somebody and get by. So that part will pick-up. But if you’re racing for 10th, it’s going to be a little different than if you’re racing for the lead. You don’t want to tear-up cars and run a half-a-track behind for 10th or something. That doesn’t make a lot of sense. But track position will be very important and it will encourage more side-by-side hard racing.”

YOU HAVE A HUGE 44 POINT LEAD OVER EDWARDS AND 59 OVER KENSETH AND YET THE JOE GIBBS RACING CARS HAVE BEEN CONSISTENTLY FASTER THAN THE HENDRICK CARS FOR MOST OF THE SEASON. WHAT DO YOU LOOK AT MORE: THE FACT THAT YOU HAVE A BIG LEAD OR THE FACT THAT THEY HAVE BEEN FASTER?

“They definitely have some speed on the 1.5-mile tracks. I feel like our short-track stuff has been real good. Our plate stuff has been awesome. And we’ve got some mile tracks coming up. Dover has been really good to us and I hope to run well there. But if I were to pick an area we need to improve on, it would be the 1.5-miles. We’re not bad. We’re still getting good finishes. But we don’t have that magic right now. I’m very happy to have this big points lead and would love to lock early as you can imagine. But I don’t know if I’m just making this up for my own good and helping my cause, but I’m glad I’m not peaking-out. We always point that out about the team that gets on a roll and are they peaking too early. I’m not saying those guys are, but I’m glad we don’t have our best stuff right now and we’ve got some time to get there. Hopefully we do.”

THERE WASN’T LOT OF OVERLAP BETWEEN YOUR CAREER AND THAT OF DICK TRICKLE. DID YOU KNOW MUCH ABOUT HIM AND DO YOU HAVE ANY THOUGHTS ABOUT HIS DEATH?

“I’m shocked and saddened by it. I didn’t race a lot against Dick. His stories were legendary throughout the ASA and short track racing that I did in the Midwest. I raced a little bit against him in the Nationwide Series. And then where I got to know him the best was racing in the IROC Series. Those practice days were so laid back and relaxed. And with Dave Marcus and Dick being there, we’d all hang out and talk about cars. Hop in your car and run a little bit. Leave the track for lunch and run down to a little spot to eat and come back. And those are the memories that I really have in getting to know Dick and spend time with him. I certainly don’t know the whole story in what’s gone on, but I’m just saddened to hear that he took his life. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and loved ones that are left behind.”

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